[...] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and more than a hundred Russian businessmen last week visited Egypt, Nigeria, Namibia and Angola on the longest tour of Africa a Russian leader has undertaken since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Unlike President Obama, who is going to Africa next week for a brief stop to talk about global warming, Mr. Medvedev and his team targeted oil, gas, diamonds and uranium. Mr. Medvedev is trying to score points before his G-8 meeting with Western leaders in Italy July 8-10.
[...] By all appearances Mr. Medvedev and, by extension, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are reviving the old Soviet Africa strategy. The Soviet Union maintained friendly relations with many African countries, including Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Namibia, Angola and Mozambique.
[...] Africa lost its significance as an ideological chessboard after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the current volume of trade between Africa and Russia is trivial. But the continent remains an economic prize. China has spent billions of dollars in the past few years gaining friends, influencing dictators, and tying African countries to Beijing.
Now the Kremlin is trying to regain its status as a global player, including re-asserting itself in Africa. Mr. Medvedev's visit to Africa appears to be the first coordinated attempt by Moscow to do so. Where once the Soviet Union sought political hegemony, today's Kremlin is after economic objectives like trade and access to raw materials. But a shift in Africa's relationship with Russia will have consequences for many.
Indeed, it will surely be fascinating to observe how Russia's Africa policy will unfold and the extent to which - if any at all - the Kremlin will seek cooperation with China, which currently has the upper hand in the continent - arguably even more so than do either the U.S. or Europe.